It’s campaign season in Israel. Which means the TV viewing public gets to see a series of increasingly histrionic, election ads attempting to provoke atavistic fears of terror, the Holocaust and national extermination. The latest example is an ad so revolting that it was pulled a day after it was released.
In the video, a group of Israeli workers and entrepreneurs hold an Alcoholics Anonymous-style meeting whose purpose is to share horror stories about how the Netanyahu government ruined their lives. The attendees represent archetypes, all of which the average Israeli would find objectionable: the cell phone gouger who charged high fees, the port worker who was paid handsomely for doing no work, and the public broadcasting official who collected license fees from the public. Finally, a Hamas fighter speaking atrocious Hebrew is thrown in for good measure. Bibi, you see, has ruined his life since Hamas is supposedly now a vanquished fighting force (as if).
The ad is blatantly false or misleading in a number of ways. First, Bibi had little to do with breaking the cell phone monopoly. Credit for this is generally offered to Moshe Kahlon, a former Likud minister, who has since bolted and founded a rival political party. As for the public broadcaster, clearly Israelis don’t appreciate paying licensing fees for watching television. But the true purpose of Bibi’s assault on this public service is his resentment of its journalistic independence. Bibi would much prefer private media companies controlling the airwaves, so that they’d be owned by his oligarch pals like Ronald Lauder or Sheldon Adelson. A public utility owned by the nation is a threat. So for that reason Bibi plans not just to end licensing fees, but to break up public broadcasting altogether.
I leave the “best” (or worst) for last. The Hamas fighter in this video calls himself “Abu Loti.” This is a revolting term for “gay” in Arabic. In effect, it means “fag.” So some smart Likud media consultant thought: eyzeh keyf (“what a lark”) to make fun of Hamas and earn points from the Israeli public. But in effect this homophobic smear insults all Israeli gays as well. It’s shameful.
But that’s not what’s most disturbing. What’s most disturbing is the reason the video was pulled had nothing to do with the homophobic slur. Rather, Israeli media criticized the video for lumping Hamasniks with Israeli workers. THAT is what disturbed the Israeli public most.